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Israeli airstrikes target northern Gaza after extended temporary ceasefire fails

By Charlotte Armstrong - August 19, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [Gaza Blockade] [negotiations] [ceasefire]

Palestinians in Gaza return to what used to be their homes in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiyeh | Photo AFP

Israeli warplanes targeted an open area in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday afternoon after the army reported three rockets fired from the coastal enclave hit Ashkelon and Beersheva. 

Haaretz reported that two children were moderately wounded by one of the Israeli strikes in the Rafah area in the southern Gaza Strip. “Israel has violated the cease-fire in order to sabotage efforts at a truce,” Hamas told Hareetz, adding that the group has no knowledge of rocket fire aimed toward Israel.

Failed 24-hour ceasefire

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed in the early morning hours Monday to extend the temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for another 24 hours after failing to reach an agreement by midnight on Sunday, the time the five-day ceasefire was set to expire.  

According to Ma’an News Agency, the decision to extend the ceasefire for another day was made only a few hours before the midnight deadline.  

The aim is to broker a long-term arrangement that will halt the return of hostilities to the besieged Gaza Strip. “We have to use every minute of the next 24 hours to reach an agreement or else the cycle of violence will continue,” Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Palestinian delegation, told reporters in Cairo.

Azzam al-Ahmad also stated that no progress has been made in the talks due to Israeli foot-dragging. “Everything you've heard in the media about progress is not true ... Maybe we will reach an agreement and maybe not," he said late on Monday. “So far we’ve only agreed to extend the cease-fire by one day.”

Unable to agree

The bloody month-long war ended more than a week ago in Gaza when Egypt secured a three-day truce, extended by another five days that expired on Monday. 

According to Al-Jazeera, the agreement to extend was reached because 'gaps’ on key issues still thwarted a long-term truce between the two sides. 

Palestinian sources told Al Jazeera late Monday that the ceasefire agreement includes the opening of border crossings in coordination with the Palestinian Authority; the transfer of building materials into Gaza under international supervision and an extension of Gaza’s fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles.

Meanwhile, the release of prisoners would be delayed for a month after the agreement was signed, and the rebuilding of Gaza would be carried out under the authority of a unified Palestinian government. 

Israel has countered that any agreement should include the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip. Israel will not agree to any long-term ceasefire in Gaza unless its security needs are clearly met, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference on Sunday.

“This is the last extension”

According to Haaretz, a senior Hamas official and member of the Palestinian government said Tuesday's negotiation extension is the last one.

“We will utilize every second and opportunity to make negotiations succeed, and a large part of the delegation members didn't want an extension today, but in the end we accepted the Egyptian request so they would not blame us of failure,” Izzat Al-Rishq of Hamas stated on Tuesday morning.

Al-Rishq accused Israel of purposely undermining the talks by making new demands that had not arisen at the start of negotiations.

More than 2,000 Palestinians died during Israel’s month-long assault on the Gaza Strip and Palestinian negotiators told Ma’an News Agency that any long-term truce will include terms “worthy of the sacrifices made.” 

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